In an unbelievably tragic story, the widow of a slain runner in Texas has committed suicide. Patti Stevens, 54, a physical therapist, was found dead of suspected suicide at her home in Sunnyvale after her husband, Dave, was slain by Thomas Linze Johnson, 21, a mentally ill former Texas A&M football player. The case is likely to raise serious mental capacity questions for Johnson who is reportedly schizophrenic as well as questions of whether the impact on Stevens (and her suicide) should be considered in any sentencing.
Stevens, 53, often ran 10 miles around White Rock Lake before heading to his electrical engineering job at GE in Plano. He was hacked to death with a machete around 8 am. Johnson reportedly confessed to the killing. Patti’s suicide came just a week after the murder. She expressed her profound lost at the time: “Dave was the love of my life and I’m lost without him . . . People need to know that this was a wonderful person going out and doing what he loved to do.”
With the history of mental illness (and the gruesome character of the attack), Johnson has an obvious mental illness defense. However, assuming that he is found sufficiently sane, should the suicide be considered as an aggravator in the sentencing? After all, Patti would have normally given a victim’s statement on her loss. That loss proved too much for her to bear. The obvious nexus between the murder and her suicide would seem a legitimate ground for aggravating a sentence. The defense is likely to argue, however, that her independent action should not be attributed to him, at least in the form of a higher sentence.
What do you think?
Source: Dallas News